7/11/2014

Oliv Shovels Her Way Through Shovel Knight!



Oliv takes a look at the newest "retro" indie game, Shovel Knight, for B-TEN! Can Oliv shovel her way to victory, or will the Order of No Quarter bury her six feet under?

4/08/2014

Oliv Talks About "Neverending Nightmares" With Creator Matt Gilgenbach

On April 3, 2014, I had the opportunity to sit down with Matt Gilgenbach and talk about the game "Neverending Nightmares." Matt was very excited to talk about the game, and hinted at some new features coming up in its next alpha build.

Unfortunately, as I lost my position at B-TEN.com, I had no legitimate news source to hand this interview in to. Therefore, I have decided to post the interview here, as it would be a shame to let it go to waste.

So here it is, folks... my exclusive interview with game developer Matt Gilgenbach! Enjoy!

------------------------------------------------------

Olivia: Hello everyone, I am here today with Matt Gilgenbach, creator of the upcoming game Neverending Nightmares. Matt, thank you so much for joining me.

Matt: It's my pleasure.

O: First, can you tell us a bit about the events that happened during your Kickstarter campaign? 

M: Well, there were a lot of interesting things that went on during the Kickstarter campaign. We had some difficulties with the [Free the Games Fund] and then some controversies at the very end. Are you asking about anything specific or do you want to hear the whole thing?

O: Well, when I came in to the campaign, I kind of caught the tail-end of it, and I remember there was a lot of drama and panic going on right at the end. Do you think you could talk a bit about that?

M: Sure. So, what happened was, someone from Brazil was interested in upping his pledge, and he typed "$92,00" because in some places they use a comma instead of a period to denote dollars versus cents.

O: Right.

M: And so, unfortunately Kickstarter's website didn't do any validation, so what he thought was $92.00 (which given the currency in Brazil, that's a lot of money) ended up being $9,200.00.

O: Oh no!

M: Which was a ridiculous amount of money. So, he was very upset, and my sister called me and was reading the comments, and was like, "You have to take care of this." And so, I didn't realize this, but Kickstarter has [a system] where, in the last 24 hours of a project, you can't un-fund it by backing down your pledge. So, this person was stuck with a very large pledge because he pushed us over the final hump. But fortunately, another backer was very gracious and able to up his pledge to basically allow the guy in Brazil to lower his pledge.  And then the guy who helped the project out was able to back his pledge down to what he was comfortable giving. So, it worked out, and we even got some extra money on the final day, but it was definitely a stressful time.

O: Well that's good, it's good that he didn't have to go through with [pledging] all that money. So, since the end of the campaign, you've definitely been very busy. You have a forum that you've been managing, plus a YouTube channel with over 100 developer diaries. So, you've been very much in the public eye throughout production so far, but I'm wondering, who else has been working on the game with you?

M: We have a very dedicated team, besides just me. We have two artists in Michigan, Joe and Adam Grabowski. And so, Joe is our lead artist, and he also does animation and helps out with level design. Adam Grabowski does the environment art. Daniel Sass is doing programming, and he actually works out of Taiwan. And we have a part-time sound designer, Eduardo Ortiz Frau, a part-time musician, Skyler McGlothlin, and then another part-time artist, Chris Ewald, who does a lot of the characters.

O: Oh, that's really cool! So, you do a lot of communicating online, then, to coordinate everything?

M: Yeah, so basically we do everything through email, instant messenger, or our internal bug database, which we use for task management.

O: Oh, okay, that's really cool. With the [state of] the current alpha build, I guess I just imagined a bunch of guys in a room together, because it's looking really good and it's very cohesive. So, I'm really impressed that you're able to organize something like that from great distances.

M: Yeah, it's definitely been a challenge, but fortunately I've been working with the people on the team for a long time. So, we all know how to work with each other. My preference would be to be working out of an office with people right there. I find that's easier. But, given that we're trying to do this on the smallest budget possible, that doesn't really make sense. So, we're making it work.

O: Right. So, with the current alpha build, I've noticed that you've definitely added a lot of new content. I particularly like the cemetery and the portraits that you've added. Now, are the portraits and the names that are on the graves some of the backers?

M: Yeah, so we had rewards for getting your portrait in the game and also getting your name on a tombstone as part of our Kickstarter rewards, and so we've started putting those in.

O: And also, in the cemetery scene on the big gravestone, it's revealed that the female character's name is Gabrielle Smith. Is this the name of a backer, or did somebody come up with this?

M: Well actually, that's a funny story. Basically, with the story I was talking about [before], the guy from Brazil who accidentally got us funded with the comma mistake, his name is Gabriel. Which, I think they pronounce as "Gabrielle" in Brazil (though, I'm not up on my Portuguese). And then, the other guy who upped his pledged to [about] $4,000 to cover the difference, his name is Thomas. And so, someone on the forum suggested that we should name the characters Thomas and Gabrielle, and so I actually incorporated that feedback, so [those are] the characters' names.

O: So then there's a story behind the names! When I was playing the alpha, my favorite gravestones that I saw were one that said "Johann Sebastian Gilgenbach" and another one that said "Matt Gilgenbot." And I noticed there was another Gilgenbach in there. Was that your wife?

M: No. Johann Sebastian Gilgenbach was what my dad picked, because he thought it was funny. Karen Gilgenbach is my sister.

O: Oh, okay.

M: And, Matt Gilgenbot was a joke name that someone gave... which I was hoping no one would notice. One would think that, if you're pledging the big dollars to get a name on your gravestone, you wouldn't put a joke name, but you'd be surprised what people want for their names on the tombstones, so I have to figure out if I can just hide it so people don't notice. I guess it's not quite as bad if you don't know my name, but I'm just worried that people [are going to think], "Oh man, this guy is so full of himself for putting his name everywhere in the game!" Which is totally not my intention at all! That's part of the problem with community involvement. You have to make sure that you and your community want the same thing for the game, so I might hide some of the joke names. Or, beg and plead the backers [for] something a little less silly.

O: Well, I personally like the Gilgenbot tombstone, but just because it made me laugh. So then, the whole Gilgenbot thing was just something the community came up with?

M: The story behind Gilgenbot is that I had mentioned that I worked on the video game "The Incredibles 2: Rise of the Underminer," and the Underminer's evil robot is called "The Gilgenbot" because someone else on that development team thought it was a funny and cool name for a robot. So, the Gilgenbot is actually a thing in a game that no one played. And so, I guess someone paid attention when I mentioned that, and then decided that that would be the gravestone they wanted. 

O: See, I didn't know that. That's another good story that you [have] that can be a part of your game! Anyways, like I said before, even though it's still in alpha, the game looks really wonderful. I personally love the art design, because it has that Edward Gorey style, and Edward Gorey is probably my favorite artist. What inspired you to make the game with this particular visual style?

M: Well, we definitely wanted to create a game with a unique art style that would stand out. There's a lot of great indie games and a lot of competition for [mind share] or attention. So, we wanted to make a game that looked like no other, one where we could show a screenshot and people would go, "Oh, that's Neverending Nightmares!" and there'd be no confusion. Or, we'd have our own unique "taste." And Edward Gorey has been a favorite artist of mine and an influence on my life. I remember watching "Mystery!" on PBS with my parents and he did this amazing animated intro, and then we had this very morbid, but very gorgeous, pop-up book, "The Dwindling Party." And so, when I was looking at unique art styles, and things that would fit the tone of the game, Edward Gorey came to mind, and I think it was a really great fit.

O: One of the things I really love about the art in the game currently is the moving shadows, and I really like the use of color with interactive objects, or when the scenes are supposed to pop out. Is it hard to make the darkness seem tangible like that, but also retain this two-dimensional illusion at the same time?

M: Yes! The short answer is yes. I did a lot of experimentation with shader and graphics programming, because I have a very strong technical background. So, I did a lot of experimentation, I had a lot of [different] modes and a lot of [different] ways for the darkness to behave, and so it was very tough getting something that felt right. So, one of the interesting things we did is basically a screen space effect, so it's an overlay over the screen. But then, when you walked the character, or [rather] the camera moved, the effect would move. The shading would essentially stay the same per point on the camera, so I actually added something where if the camera moves, the shading stays in the same position relative to the camera. And so then, as the camera moves, the camera is panning across something that is already shaded. But then, of course, the shading in and of itself is animated. Even the lights are [sort of] animated, so they create pulsing and shading patterns. It's very complicated!

O: It sounds like it. It looks really good, though. Going off of the whole graphical aspect, I like the changes in the atmosphere and scenery as the main character continues to wake up that you currently have in the alpha build, and I'm just wondering if the player is just going to be limited to waking up in the house, or are there going to be other settings as well?

M: There's definitely other settings. There's not going to be a huge number of locations, but yes... I'm really excited about the build that we're working on right now that should hopefully go up next week (but it's possible it might be the week after), where we introduce another big location in the game. But I don't want to say what it is.

O: Okay, well then, I will not press you further about that. The newest build has introduced a system of hiding from monsters in wardrobes. Will you be adding other systems, like combat or puzzles?

M: Again, this is more interesting stuff in the latest build that's going to go out soon, but we have another enemy type, and I don't want to spoil anything... 

O: Okay.

M: But, there won't be any combat. It's not a game about fighting, it's a game about avoiding enemies. But there's another enemy, you'll have to avoid him in different ways, and a lot of his set-ups are more puzzle-oriented, so you have to figure out how to get past this enemy. So, we're definitely trying to keep things interesting with a variety of enemies and set-ups. But, there won't be combat.

O: Okay. So, at the moment, with the current build, it's kind of hard to determine what the story for the game is going to be like. Can you reveal anything about the plot, or is that an under wraps kind of thing?

M: Basically, I don't want to reveal anything specific about the plot, but I think that's something that will sort of take shape as we finish more of the cut scenes and the elements that go towards revealing the story. But, I think even once we have all the story elements in there, it's going to be sort of confusing. I sort of imagine it [to be] like playing a David Lynch movie, where people say things and everything feels weird and dream-like. We're really trying to keep that weird and dream-like feeling, where people say things, but it doesn't really seem like what they mean, and everyone just acts sort of weird. So, it's definitely going to be a sort of a disorienting and strange nightmare story, as you go through the different nightmare levels.

O: So, kind of like "Eraserhead: The Game?"

M: Yes!

O: So, you've said that Neverending Nightmares is in part inspired by your own experiences with mental illness. Do you think you could talk a little bit about that?

M: Sure. So, it's not inspired directly, like the main character isn't supposed to be me. You know, my life usually consists of sitting in front of a computer all day, which would make a very boring video game.

O: Yeah.

M: What I'm trying to do instead is to recreate the feelings, the experience, of dealing with OCD and depression, because having mental illness colors your perception of  the world, and so things seem bad and threatening and wrong, even when they're completely harmless. And that's just the way your mind perceives things. So, we're trying to create an environment where everything feels oppressive and threatening and weird and bad, through the art style and what happens in the game, even though those don't directly correlate to things that [have] happened in my battles with mental illness. But, there are some elements which I am pulling almost directly from my experience. One of the things with OCD that I struggle with is called "intrusive thoughts," and so with intrusive thoughts, your mind comes up with these ways to make you unhappy. It comes up with these thoughts that you really don't want to think about, really terrible things. And one of the things that I've struggled with is violent images of self-injury. And so, I don't know if you saw the trailer, which is on the Kickstarter video on our website, but in [it] there are these horrible scenes of arm mutilation that are just gross and totally bizarre. But those things are actually pulled from my own experience. Those are essentially recreations of intrusive thoughts that I've dealt with over the years. So, they're very accurate to what I've experienced, and these weird ways my mind tries to torment me. 

O: Right. I kind of forgot about the arm thing from the trailer, and I just pictured it in my head... Ewww!

M: It's actually not in the game yet. It's definitely going to be in the game, but it hasn't made it [in] yet. I haven't quite figured out where I want it...

O: Well, I'm interested to see where that goes. Currently, with the build that there is, I know that it's pretty early alpha, so there's a  lot of empty rooms and such. But, just with the changes of scenery and [such], when I was playing the alpha build, I felt that oppressive feeling, especially with the way the shadows work. It really seems to lend itself to that feeling. And also, I forgot to mention this, but the sound design is very good so far. I like the subtle nuances as the scenery changes, how the music changes. There's that whole atmospheric thing going on. I'm very excited about it, I like where it's going so far! So, I'm wondering, has the interest in Neverending Nightmares helped spark interest in other works you've done, like Retro/Grade?

M: To some extent. Certainly, people [who] are excited about Neverending Nightmares have checked out Retro/Grade, and we were just in a Humble Weekly Sale, which got a lot of units out there. I think there [definitely] has been some cross-over. But in general, Retro/Grade is almost sort of a lost cause in my mind, because we sunk so much into it and it's really struggled to find a significant audience. So, I'm mostly trying to focus on future stuff, you know, Neverending Nightmares and beyond.

O: Right. Well, just so you know, I liked Retro/Grade.

M: Thank you, I'm glad to hear it.

O: So, for Neverending Nightmares, do you have an approximate time frame for when you think it might be coming out, or is that kind of up in the air right now?

M: Well, we definitely want to get it out before Halloween, since that's a great time to release a horror game.

O: Right. Well, I'm very excited. I definitely want to get my hands on it around Halloween time, because that's when me and my friends like to play all the scary games, and they like to watch me scream. So, I just have one last question, and [it's this]: in the graveyard scene that's in the alpha right now, the boy has a short line of dialogue, and I know that's not final, but is that you, or is that someone else on your team?

M: So that line... I think it's Eduardo, our sound designer. I think that's why he has a [kind of] Puerto Rican accent.

O: Ooooh.

M: But, for the new build there's a bunch of dialogue, and we don't have [assistants] for all the voice acting, but I recorded all of the lines for Thomas. So, it's temp, but you'll definitely get to hear my line readings in the next build... which I wish I could have gotten out before this interview, because there's so much cool stuff in it. But it's coming soon, we're working on it right now!

O: Well, this is just building the hype, then, for everyone who has access to the alpha!

M: Yes, this next build is going to be really great! At least for me, the next build feels like a game, whereas it sort of feels like a demo right now, [because] there's a lot of functionality missing, [like] menus and save games and stuff. It's sort of an evolution of the Kickstarter demo, but this new one has a lot of the game features, and it obviously doesn't have all the levels yet, [but] at least to me it feels like a more cohesive package, if that makes any sense. 

O: So, it's starting to come together?

M: Yeah, which definitely feels good, just because sometimes you don't really know how these things will come together, or when they'll come together, but it's coming together and I really feel like we know what we're doing. It's just a question now of finishing all the content. 

O: Well, I am very excited, especially for the next build [now], I can't wait for it to come out! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today, Matt! Good luck with the game. I really can't wait to play it!

M: Awesome! Well, thank you for doing the interview, I appreciate it.

O: Well, you know... anything to get more attention for the game!

M: Cool, thanks!

------------------------------------------------------

I would just like to say thank you (for the zillionth time) to Matt for giving me the opportunity to do this interview. I had a great time, even if I was incredibly nervous, and I sincerely look forward to the official release of "Neverending Nightmares!"

~ Oliv ~

3/29/2014

Imscared: A Pixelated Nightmare - A Review




Amaya coerced Oliv into playing Imscared - A Pixelated Nightmare... and Oliv was genuinely surprised with the game!

Please read the review here, at B-TEN.com! For regular content from Oliv, please visit B-TEN.com.

You can download Imscared here for free!

3/25/2014

Olivia On B-TEN.com!

Hey guys, Oliv here!

I know there has been a significant lull in content on the blog lately, and I sincerely apologize for this. Being a college student makes it difficult to set aside time for video projects, and I feel bad that I haven't been able to provide regular content.

However, all that is about to change! I have just joined B-TEN.com, a technology and entertainment news website, where I will be posting regular written reviews and editorials on movies and video games! I will provide links to B-TEN content here on OJ Films, in addition to regular OJF content.

Don't worry guys... Oliv is coming back strong!

~ Oliv ~


You can read Oliv's first post on B-TEN.com here! Happy reading!

11/04/2013

Oliv and Friends Conquer THE HOUSE



Oliv and a slew of friends play "The House," the first in a series of horrible flash games by SINTHAIstudio. Enjoy the low-quality non-content! :)